Financial planners help people invest for the future. Retirement planners are financial planners who specialize in the financial needs and concerns of people planning for retirement. Some retirement planners work for corporations of all sizes; many others are self-employed. Retirement planners have diverse backgrounds in fields such as banking, accounting, law, and life insurance. There are approximately 355,000 financial analysts and personal financial advisers working in the United States.
History of Retirement Planner Career
In the 20th century, several factors, including population growth, technological advances, and work efficiency, greatly affected employment for older employees. As the pool of young workers grew, employers began to set work age restrictions that were altered by several laws through the years. (However, in 1986 a federal law was passed that prohibited mandatory retirement for most workers.) The Social Security Act of 1935 gave workers and their families retirement benefits, among other social welfare programs. Depending on the age of retirement, insured workers receive monthly benefits—full benefits are allowed after age 65; early retirement after age 62 allows for 80 percent of benefits. Workers who choose to work beyond age 65 receive increased benefits.
However, most people have found Social Security insufficient, especially to maintain their previous standard of living during their retirement years. To supplement retirement income, people have increasingly relied on pension plans, company profit sharing, individual retirement accounts (IRAs), and other forms of investments. Today, most workers are aware of the importance of saving and planning for retirement. They often turn to knowledgeable professionals for financial advice and strategies. The field of retirement planning grew as a specialty from traditional financial planning services. Such planners and counselors are in demand to create and administer financial retirement plans. They also address other important retirement issues such as relocation, medical insurance needs, income tax, wills, and estate planning.
The Job of Retirement Planners
Jan Perogstat knows the importance of saving for the future. Having been a financial planner for Mayster & Hambourger for several years, and in the banking and mutual fund industries before that, she has considerable experience in financial planning and advocates the idea of managing and investing money wisely for the future. Financial planners like Perogstat, especially those specializing in retirement issues, tailor saving strategies to ensure that a client can live a comfortable lifestyle during their retirement years.
“The first part of the task,” says Perogstat, “is gathering the information.” She must ascertain a client’s net worth by collecting tax forms, insurance papers, and data regarding income, assets and debts, and trusts, among other information. Perogstat then determines what the client’s needs and goals will be for their retirement years. There is a big difference between simple living and first class travel to exotic locales. Relocation and medical insurance are also major concerns to address. Once the data is compiled, Jan researches and presents the best means to achieve the client’s retirement objectives.
A good retirement planner will assess a client’s financial history—pointing out relevant areas such as tax returns, insurance policies, company savings plans, and investments. Planners also identify what areas, if any, a client needs to strengthen, such as improving investment returns or consolidating debts. They will discuss investment preferences and risk levels comfortable to the client. Traditional sources of retirement funds include Social Security, personal savings (IRAs, stocks and bonds, real estate, and other investments), employer-sponsored plans, post-retirement employment, and inheritance.
Retirement planners also help prepare clients for the possibility of incapacity, disability, and the need for chronicillness care during retirement. Disability income insurance, long-term care insurance, or a medical savings account may be suggested as precautions for such situations. Many companies, in an attempt to restructure or downsize, offer their employees the option for early retirement, complete with incentives. Retirement planners are consulted as to the benefits or downfalls of early retirement.
Perogstat makes it a point to keep in touch with her clients quarterly. The economy and stock market are often volatile and clients’ needs and situations change, so it is imperative to make constant assessments. A yearly reevaluation is necessary, at minimum. Such considerations are key to maintaining good rapport with clients. “I like to help people with their financial future,” says Jan. She educates her client base by bringing a level of specialized knowledge to them. When asked if it is ever too late to save for retirement, Perogstat asserts, “Never!”
Retirement Planner Career Requirements
Take as many business and mathematics courses in high school as possible. Speech classes will help you hone your oral communication skills, while English classes will give you the basics necessary to write reports for your clients.
A bachelor’s degree is generally the basic requirement for a career in retirement planning. Most retirement planners and other financial advisers hold degrees in accounting, business, mathematics, or economics, as these directly relate to the type of work that planners do. Courses in taxes, estate planning, and risk management are especially helpful. You should also be sure to take classes in communication and public speaking, as interacting with clients is the cornerstone of this business. Good computer skills are also a must.
Certification or Licensing
Because of their diverse backgrounds, financial planners have many different educational degrees and licenses. Planners who seek specialized training can earn credentials such as chartered financial consultant (ChFC) or certified financial planner (CFP). Professionals who wish to specialize in retirement issues may opt to become a chartered retirement plans specialist (CRPS) or a chartered retirement planning counselor (CRPC). CRPSs advise businesses on employee retirement plans, while CRPCs work with individuals who are retired or nearing retirement age.
Certification requirements vary depending on the specialty, though all programs demand continuing education credits for yearly recertification.
This job will require you to be in constant contact with your customers. You will need excellent communication skills, as well as be comfortable dealing with all kinds of people. “Gaining a customer’s trust,” says Jan Perogstat, “is all important in this industry.” The most successful planner is able to express and deliver a sense of expertise and professionalism to his or her clients.
Exploring Retirement Planner Career
Check out the financial planning information available on the Internet to familiarize yourself with the industry. Jan Perogstat suggests interning with a financial planner or brokerage house to get work experience, as well as an insider’s peak at the industry.
Retirement planners are employed by businesses such as consulting firms, brokerage houses, accounting firms, and banks. Some retirement planners are self-employed. Numerous planners have careers in related fields such as accounting, insurance, real estate, and do consulting on a part-time basis.
Retirement planning is a specialty that takes special training and education. Many, like Jan Perogstat, transfer to financial planning after working in related fields. Most college graduates interested in this career would probably start at a brokerage house like Charles Schwab or Merrill Lynch earning a base salary plus commission.
If your school has a job placement program or career center, take advantage of the information and services it offers. Also, consider job fairs, newspaper wants ads—look under finance or employment recruiters. If you can get in touch with a financial planner, pick their brains on the best ways to enter the business.
Advancement in this occupation can take several forms. For some, this may mean working towards having a larger, more diverse client base. Others may consider starting their own financial consulting business.
Self-employed retirement planners need to be responsible for numerous details of running a business—accounting, insurance, overhead costs—as well as finding customer leads and referrals. Being your own boss may sound appealing, but it carries much responsibility, not to mention risk. You may first want to speak with others in the industry to weigh the pros and cons of self-employment.
The U.S. Department of Labor reports that median annual earnings for personal financial advisers, which includes retirement planners, were $61,910 in 2004, with the lowest 10 percent earning less than $37,580, and the highest 10 percent earning more than $113,490. Many retirement planners, especially those who are selfemployed, charge their clients an hourly rate for their services or a flat fee for a comprehensive plan. These rates and fees vary according to the complexity of the work the planner must do. Retirement planners sometimes receive commissions on the products they sell, in addition to their standard fees.
Most retirement planners work 40 hours or more a week, depending on the number of clients and businesses they represent. The majority of their workday is spent in the office doing research or meeting with clients. However, financial planners may also travel to their client’s business, home, or other designated places.
Retirement Planner Career Outlook
The U.S. Census Bureau estimated that in 2000 there were 35 million people in the United States who were age 65 or older. This number is expected to dramatically increase through the year 2030, as the “baby boom” generation reaches retirement age. The Census Bureau estimates that there will be 82 million people in this age group by the year 2050. Thus, the retirement planning field should grow at a faster than average rate, as more and more people will be demanding these services.
The government’s Social Security system is often not enough to meet the financial needs of seniors as they continue to live longer and more productively. People are increasingly dependent on pension plans, savings plans, and investments to help maintain a comfortable standard of living through their retirement years. Financial planners, especially those that specialize in retirement plans, will be in high demand for their advice and recommendations on the best way to build and manage retirement funds. Job opportunities for certified retirement planners, whether affiliated with a company or self-employed, will be plentiful.